Young Achievers 2006

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Many university graduates and school leavers get jobs in the insurance industry and progress quickly...

Many university graduates and school leavers get jobs in the insurance industry and progress quickly to positions of responsibility. Each year the industry awards recognise these people with the Young Achiever British Insurance Award at the Royal Albert Hall - so who better to talk about the sector than some of this year's finalists.

Victoria Cuggy, 28, is group company secretary for motor specialist Equity Insurance.

Why did you choose to work in the insurance industry? I didn't choose to work in insurance; it was the role I chose. I was looking for a step up from the secretarial role I was in to a company role and this position came up. I hadn't even thought of the industry before.

What degree/higher education qualification did you achieve? I achieved a 2:1 in Criminal Justice with Law from the University of Central England.

Why would you recommend the insurance industry to a graduate? The insurance industry has great career prospects. There are so many areas and people can move into different roles within the industry, which is unique. You can also complete professional qualifications, which sometimes beat degrees in value.

What is the best part of your job? Autonomy is the best part of my role. I report to the chief executive but I have free rein to do most things. I like the responsibility and that I have been given a chance at this age to head up a company secretaries department.

Is there any one thing about the industry that has surprised you? Before I came into the market, I thought that it was an old man's business and that men dominated it. There are a many female staff, however, especially in senior roles. There is a lot of fresh blood entering the industry but there is still a negative perspective outside of it.

How would you convince someone that insurance is interesting? Everyone needs insurance and there is huge diversity and a massive range of products. There are so many different aspects and the roles are diverse too. There is compliance, underwriting and assessing risks as well as central functions such as accounting or secretarial.

What is the most interesting fact you have learnt about insurance? It isn't as staid as people suggest and it is a fast-moving environment, especially in times of catastrophe.

Describe the insurance industry in five words. Competitive, progressive, evolving, diverse and challenging.

Stephen Ford, 28, is an actuary for St Paul Travelers Insurance.

Why did you choose to work in the insurance industry? It wasn't a deliberate decision. My first position was with an actuarial consulting firm and the contract was initially 15 months. I subsequently decided to remain in actuarial work due to its professional nature, job security and challenging nature of the work.

What degree/higher education qualification did you achieve? I achieved a first-class degree with honours in Mathematics from the University of Leeds.

Why would you recommend the insurance industry to a graduate? It's an excellent opportunity to work with a variety of companies, offering them solutions to their specific business needs. The market is large and varied; you can find a niche or you can branch out into different roles.

What is the best part of your job? When a piece of work helps St Paul Travelers make a decision that gives us a good result - for example, an analysis to understand our retention/rate trade-off - or when we win some business that I've been involved in pricing.

Is there any one thing about the industry that has surprised you? Its size and reach.

How would you convince someone that insurance is interesting? Everyone needs insurance, from the individual travel policy to the multinational employers' liability policy. Although associated with bad events - either paying the premium or the event leading to a claim - the insurance industry frees people from worry and enables them to pursue their interests. The industry affects everyone in many different areas of life and, as such, by working in it you get to see the world from many different perspectives.

Describe the insurance industry in five words. Important, global, relationships, competitive and dynamic.

Darren Clayden, 26, is a marketing officer in the electronic media division at insurer Groupama.

Why did you choose to work in the insurance industry? I have always had an interest in technology and design, and while insurance did not seem like an obvious route into fulfilling these aspirations, I have found the industry to be diverse and provide opportunities for me to develop and use these skills.

What degree/higher education qualification did you achieve? In 2005 I obtained a first-class degree with honours in Business Information Technology after studying part-time over three years.

Why would you recommend the insurance industry to a graduate? The industry is constantly changing and challenging traditional methodology, allowing you to get involved in interesting projects and initiatives. It provides you with great exposure and opportunities.

What is the best part of your job? I love the variety of tasks and the mix of people I work with, and every day is different so there's never a dull moment. I enjoy the creative side of my job, whether this is developing a new web page, designing a new magazine or producing promotional literature for a product.

Is there any one thing about the industry that has surprised you? Although the industry is highly competitive, insurers can be collaborative by sharing information and designing systems to improve efficiency and productivity within the industry without compromising on competitive advantage.

How would you convince someone that insurance is interesting? Firstly, it is important to forget the preconceptions you may have of insurance - it is integral to every personal and business life. The scope of insurance is so large, the decisions you make will be important, rewarding and provide job satisfaction.

What is the most interesting fact you have learnt about insurance? The number of different jobs that make up the insurance industry. It's almost a micro-economy in itself, ranging from accounts to compliance, customer service to IT and legal to underwriting.

Describe the insurance industry in five words. Diverse, competitive, innovative, dynamic and protection.

Natalie Taylor, 26, is senior marketing communications officer at Fortis Insurance.

Why did you choose to work in the insurance industry? The industry is challenging and this will always be the case. This is the reason I chose to work in insurance. Meeting the changing needs and demands of customers is one thing; meeting these needs within the insurance industry is quite another.

What degree/higher education qualification did you achieve? I achieved a 2:1 degree in Public Relations with honours at Bournemouth University in 2002.

Why would you recommend the insurance industry to a graduate? The industry is continuously evolving, whether it is responding to rising service expectations or estimating and responding to the effects of increasingly severe weather conditions or economic/political issues. It's an exciting time to be within the industry, providing the opportunity to put theory, skills and ideas into practice.

What is the best part of your job? The variety my role offers - every day is different.

Is there any one thing about the industry that has surprised you? The industry is not as dry and stale as it appears to some and ongoing innovation is widely encouraged and recognised through high-profile industry awards. In addition, the increasing number of females in higher levels within the industry is encouraging.

How would you convince someone that insurance is interesting? Who would be there if there was another Selby rail accident, South-east Asian tsunami or Boscastle flood? When there is a crisis, people turn to the police, the ambulance and fire services and their insurance company. Insurance is about researching what the future holds in order to offer a service that gives customers peace of mind and security.

Describe the insurance industry in five words. Challenging, evolving, inspiring, rewarding and resilient.

Poppy Crane, 26, is a claims management information manager at insurer Axa.

Why did you choose to work in the insurance industry? I wanted a new challenge. I trained as a legal executive in a solicitor's firm and wanted to see the claims process from a different perspective.

What degree/higher education qualification did you achieve? I attended Sixth Form College and obtained A Levels in Law, English Language and Human Biology.

Why would you recommend the insurance industry to a graduate? I would recommend working for a company such as Axa as there are many different areas a graduate can work in - from media or human resources to sales or claims - depending on their skills and knowledge.

What is the best part of your job? Developing new processes and procedures that help my team work accurately and efficiently.

Is there any one thing about the industry that has surprised you? I am surprised by the stereotypical way people see insurance. The majority of people think that you can give them a quote from anything from a Ferrari to a one-bed flat, regardless of where you work. I don't believe the public believes it has many technical roles, which are the foundations of the business.

How would you convince someone that insurance is interesting? In claims, it is very satisfying when you help someone who's going through a major crisis such as a house fire or a road traffic accident.

What is the most interesting fact you have learnt about insurance? The differences across the industry throughout Europe and how each country's insurance system works.

Describe the insurance industry in five words. Diverse, innovative, developing, optimistic and challenging.

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